Is it possible to see Metro Manila ease into a more lenient quarantine status this year?
According to Karl Kendrick Chua, acting director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Metro Manila may be placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) next month—if the public continues to observe health protocols.
At a press briefing held Monday, Chua noted that the rollout of the vaccination program places the country in a better position to relax quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and adjacent regions by next month.
“The good news is we have lived with this virus already,” he explained, adding that “with the arrival of the vaccine,” the data may show “that we can better manage the economy by reopening further and safely.”
Chua added that keeping Metro Manila under general community quarantine places the country’s economy in a difficult position, noting that areas under GCQ saw losses of up to P700 million in wages, salaries and other income.
“If we don’t open the economy gradually and safely, we would have further long-term scarring or productivity losses,” he noted.
Following this statement, the OCTA Research group advised against rushing into easing quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila.
“Alam kong naghihirap na tayo pero minsan yung timing ng decision is very critical,” OCTA Research member Dr. Guido David noted. “Every month nawawalan tayo pero mahirap naman malagay sa kalagayan ng krisis.”
While the state of our economy is important, David explained that efforts to revive it have to be balanced with the country’s campaign against COVID-19. “Every day na tayo sa GCQ, siguro nakakaiyak yung numbers, pero at the same time, iba-balance natin, kasi yung pag-balanse importante na rin,” he added.
While it’s hard to tell the best time to ease quarantine restrictions, David noted that this depends on the success of the vaccination program.
As of writing, the country has secured up to 108 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Some 5.6 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are expected to arrive by the end of March, while 50,000 vaccines from Sinovac will arrive by February.